Interview Preparation Pack

The number one reason for an unsuccessful job interview is lack of preparation. Success comes from preparing thoroughly, researching the company and knowing what to expect in the interview process. The interview is a prime opportunity for you to sell yourself to the interviewer, focusing on your strengths and the skills you can bring to a position.

The more you prepare the more confident you will feel. You only have one chance to make a good impression. There are many sources of company and industry information. You can gather information from the company website, press articles and trade journals. The larger the company, the more likely you will be able to get a sense of their financial position. If they are publicly traded, look up their stock information and check out a few charts. Most financial sites will also offer easy summaries and a general financial analysis. Is the company booming or do they need new blood and an innovative boost? Speak to your consultant - they will know some of the best places to look and may even have some of the information themselves.

Research & Preparation

  • Company History
    Try to find how long the company has been established and who owns the company. Are they part of a group or independent? How did the company evolve and how has it developed its market? Look up the company mission statement.
  • Familiarise yourself with the company's organisational structure and size
    If the company has multiple sites and additional products/services research them, where they are located, divisions, subsidiaries and brand names. Developing a deeper understanding of the environment will prepare you for a more thorough interview.
  • Investigate the market
    Find out about the company's stance in the market, who do they come up against on a regular basis? What are their strengths in comparison to their competitors? Who is their client base?
  • Research the role
    Knowing as much as you can about the role is just as important as researching the company. Why the role is available, what it will entail, who you will be reporting to? Speak to your consultant it is possible they may be able to provide you with an in-depth job specification.
  • Ensure that you have read your CV prior to the interview
    Most of the questions asked will be based on the information you have provided them with. Make sure everything on there is correct and up to date. If there are gaps in your CV or you have had a number of roles make sure you can overcome this. Be prepared to answer questions on all of your previous positions and your reasons for leaving.
Key questions - What to Expect

No interview follows the same format; it usually depends on the position and the organisation. However there are a number of key questions that are commonly asked in an interview, particularly at first interview stage;

  • Tell Me about Yourself
  • Why are you looking for a new position?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What motivates you?
  • What have been your greatest achievements? These do not always have to be work related think about Your personal achievements as well
  • What has been your biggest disappointment?
  • How well do you work under pressure?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why should I employ you?
  • What do you know about our company?

In order to answer these questions calmly and professionally you need to prepare by;

  • Thoroughly researching the employer, the market and the role
  • Understanding what skills you possess and how they can benefit the company - Be prepared to give examples
  • Know what your strengths and weaknesses are and how you can overcome your weaknesses - When identifying your weaknesses try to turn a negative into a positive and explain what measures you have taken to overcome them.
  • Identify your achievements and how you achieved them
  • Look at decisions you have had to make, the thought process and the outcome from that decision
  • Consider what motivates you and why

Whilst it is important to let the interviewer dominate the interview it is important to ask relevant questions, it should be a two-way communication. However, be careful not to ask questions on topics already covered by the interviewer;

  • Why is the position available?
  • Who would I be reporting to?
  • What type of training opportunities would be on offer?
  • Is there opportunity for progression within the organisation?
  • How do I compare to other candidates you have interviewed?
  • How do you see my skills and achievements fitting into your organisation?
  • Do you have any reservations - this is better to ask at the end of the first interview so if there are any reservations you have the opportunity to use your skills to overcome them there and then.

The first interview is not a good time to ask about salary and benefits. This should be left until the second interview or until the client raises the question. If the client asks what salary you are on never answer them directly, suggest instead what you would ideally be looking for. At the end of the interview thank the interviewer for their time. If you are interested in the position tell them. Ask what the next steps are and what timescales they are working to. You should leave the interview knowing;

  • Am I interested in the job?
  • Is the company interested in me?
  • What is the next stage?

Remember to call your consultant straight after the interview. This is important as it gives us the opportunity to go back to the company to confirm your interest whilst you are still fresh in the interviewers mind. If we have your feedback when we speak to the company it demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm. The same day send a personalised letter/e-mail to the interviewer reinforcing your interest in the position and once again thanking them for their time.

Improve Your Interview Techniques

Before you leave for the interview make sure you have with you the address of where you are meeting the interviewer, a location map, the name of the person you will be meeting, their job title and a contact number in case you need to reach them. Your consultant will provide you will all of this information.

Plan your journey in advance and give yourself plenty of time to get there. If you are going to be late then make sure you contact the interviewer or speak to your consultant who will get hold of them for you.

The first interview is not a good time to ask about salary and benefits. This should be left until the second interview or until the client raises the question. If the client asks what salary you are on never answer them directly, suggest instead what you would ideally be looking for. At the end of the interview thank the interviewer for their time. If you are interested in the position tell them. Ask what the next steps are and what timescales they are working to. You should leave the interview knowing;

  • Am I interested in the job?
  • Is the company interested in me?
  • What is the next stage?

Remember to call your consultant straight after the interview. This is important as it gives us the opportunity to go back to the company to confirm your interest whilst you are still fresh in the interviewers mind. If we have your feedback when we speak to the company it demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm. The same day send a personalised letter/e-mail to the interviewer reinforcing your interest in the position and once again thanking them for their time.

Presentation:

Presentation is a key part of any interview. You need to present yourself in the best light possible. Make sure you are dressed for the vacancy you are being interviewed for. Always wear your smartest suit and make sure your shoes are well polished. Dependent upon the company policy on dress code the consultant may advise you differently.

  • Choose a conservative colour
  • Dress professionally without overdressing
  • Avoid wearing inappropriate jewellery or body piercings
  • Always feel smart and comfortable

Body Language:

Body language is defined as 'what we say without actually saying anything' - the first 30 seconds of an interview are the most important, based on how you look, eye contact and a relaxed posture.

  • Practice a firm, confident handshake and look the interviewer directly in the eye, maintain this eye contact throughout the interview.
  • How you sit is also important, avoid defensive body positions such as crossing your arms or your legs they will convey to the interviewer that you are anxious.

During the Interview:

Employers are looking for enthusiasm, professionalism and confidence. Make sure you remain professional before, during and after the interview. Relax and be yourself, but don't forget that you are involved in the interview process from the moment you arrive until you leave.

  • Stay focused - keep your answers short and to the point
  • Don't dominate the interviewer - never interrupt
  • Be assertive, not aggressive
  • Don't be afraid to ask for clarification
  • Don't rush your answers - take a moment to think
  • Be positive - don't say anything negative about your previous employers
  • Be honest
Interview Styles

Please note not all of the following information will be applicable to you.

Interviews follow many different structures and formats based on the nature of the position and the organisation.

Your consultant will advise what format the interview will take and will help you to prepare accordingly.

Face to Face Interviews:

  • The most common type of interview is a face to face interview usually consisting of a first interview, and if successful you will be required to attend a second interview. Second interviews tend to be more in-depth and you will often be interviewed by more than one person.

Telephone Interviews:

  • Telephone Interviews can often be more difficult in terms of judging body language and facial expressions, however they are a useful tool for those who live abroad or find it difficult to co-ordinate diaries. They are a preliminary assessment for both the candidate and the company.

Presentations:

  • You may be required to give a presentation in order to demonstrate why you would be the best person for the job. They show your personal preparation skills, the ability to converse and more importantly, if you are applying for a sales vacancy, the ability to sell.

Competency Based Interview (Behavioural/Situational):

  • Competency is a specific quality, knowledge, skill or behaviour in order to be successful in a position. Competency based interviewing is an increasingly popular tool mainly used within multi-national organisations, however is beginning to infiltrate into a number of industry sectors.

Verbal & Numerical Reasoning:

  • Using objective assessments companies can ensure that they employ the right person to do the job. Aptitude tests measure intellectual capacity for logical thinking and can determine where a candidates skills lie as well as assessing whether their character suits the position. They can be particularly useful when used in conjunction with another form of interviewing.
Interview Styles - Hints & Tips

Presentations::

An effective oral presentation requires careful planning, preparation, and delivery. This is a perfect opportunity for you present yourself in a way that highlights your preparation skills, professional ability and more importantly, if applying for a sales position, your ability to sell.

Know Your Topic - The Company will usually give you a topic to present on - this may be about your skills and experience and how you feel these will benefit the company or it may be a topic relevant to the industry - for example how you foresee the market developing. Often you may be required to come up with your own topic.

Know Your Audience - An effective presentation is a presentation that meets the needs of the audience. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what the employer requires from you and what they want to achieve from the presentation.

Researching your Topic - As with any interview, research is the key. Utilise your consultant for information and use the internet to find out as much information as possible about the company and the topic you are presenting on.

Defining Your Message - One of the most important steps in developing a presentation is to focus the presentation to a limited message. Most audiences will remember only a small portion of the presentation so make sure they remember you long after the presentation has finished.

Structure - An effective presentation will follow a specific structure that the audience understands. Try to follow a simple format of introduction, content, summary and question and answers. The length of your presentation will vary - find out off your consultant how long you are required to speak for and build your structure around this.

Visual Aids - Visual aids are an important part of presentations. They help to achieve your objective and will increase the audience's understanding of the topic. A presentation is 5 times more likely to be remembered if visual tools are used. PowerPoint is a popular visual aid, however you can also use a projector or a flip chart if preferred. Whilst visuals can lend support to you speech they should only be used in conjunction with your spoken word and should not distract from what you are trying to say.

Handouts - The use of handout material is an important part of the communication process and can significantly increase the effectiveness of the presentation. It is important that these are given out at the end of the presentation so as not to take the focus away from you in the middle of your speech.

Delivery - An effective presentation is the result of extensive planning, preparation, and most importantly, practise. When delivering your presentation be confident, speak clearly and assertively and maintain eye contact with everyone in the room. Do not read your speech parrot fashion, write notes on small cards to prompt yourself and use the visual aids as a reminder.

Remember last-minute preparation will only result in a poor presentation and an opportunity lost;

  • Prepare the presentation well in advance
  • Know Your Topic
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Speak clearly and assertively
  • Be confident

Compentency:

Competency is a specific quality, knowledge, skill or behaviour in order to be successful in a position. Competency based interviewing is an increasingly popular tool mainly used within multi-national organisations, however is beginning to infiltrate into a number of industry sectors.

Competency Based Interviewing can sometimes be referred to as Structured Interviewing or Evidence Based Interviewing and there are two common approaches; one is to ask a series of questions, targeted at each of the core competencies while the other involves in-depth probing questions with the interviewer actively listening for clues which provide evidence that the candidate possess the necessary skills.

The questions are behavioural based and used to assess how a candidate's past performances in work related situations can be used as a predictor of future performance in the role they are recruiting for. Questions will take the format of open-ended questions such as 'Describe a situation which caused a problem and how you overcame this?'

You must choose answers based on real experiences and be ready to give relevant examples. Think about instances in which you feel you performed well and how you dealt with them. Once you have talked about your example, the interviewer will probably ask you further questions to get a deeper understanding of what you did so be ready to talk about your example in a lot of detail.

Speak to your consultant about the competencies you are to be assessed on and they will help to prepare you accordingly for the interview.

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